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A world-class electric car

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences is leading the way in the design of electric cars in Finland. The Electric RaceAbout (E-RA) developed there shows what can be done with electric vehicle technology – and where we could go with it.

Although electric cars are widely seen as one of the answers to the world’s energy problems, a lot of challenges still need to be overcome before they become a mainstream alternative. Committed as it is to promoting a more sustainable future, developing its own vision of the electric car of the future was a natural move for the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Built by Helsinki Metropolia students, the Electric RaceAbout, or E-RA , did extremely well in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE vehicle design competition held in the US in 2010 , which attracted almost 100 teams, including some sponsored by major car manufacturers. The E-RA came second in the side-by-side seating category. In fact, the E-RA was described by the competition’s technical advisor, Bob Larsen, “as a true feat of engineering.” He also said that “it was amazing that the car was developed by university students.”

A full-blooded, two-seater sports car, the E-RA has extremely low energy consumption and generates no emissions – just the thing for car enthusiasts who may be feeling increasingly guilty about their passion for motoring when everyone is being called on to do their bit to save the environment.

200 kilometres on a single charge

The E-RA was designed from scratch as a pure battery-powered electric vehicle, featuring an efficient and simple direct electric all-wheel drive and the best available lithium battery system.

The result is an impressive-looking sports car that is very energy-efficient, virtually noiseless, and generates no local emissions. Each wheel is fitted with its own motor, and thanks to innovative distributed power generation and vehicle control systems – both developed as part of the project – it needs no traditional mechanical transmission.

The E-RA is capable of running up to 200 kilometres at an average speed of 100 km/h on a single charge, using the energy equivalent of 1.6 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres. Its batteries can be given an express charge in just 10 minutes.

The body of the E-RA makes use of a number of state-of-the-art lightweight technologies and weighs only half that of a normal car.

Networking expertise

Helsinki Metropolia’s three-year electric car project has helped create a new network of electric vehicle expertise in Finland, as the majority of the more than 60 partners involved in the project are Finnish companies and research institutions.

Helsinki Metropolia’s Automotive Engineering Unit and the Institute of Design at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences were responsible for the overall design, while the new electric motors that power it were provided by the Lappeenranta University of Technology.

The inverters and control system in its electric powertrain were also the product of Finnish expertise, while the batteries and charging system were sourced elsewhere.

“We wanted to prove that electric cars can offer
a real alternative to conventional designs.”

A true team effort

A core team of 14 Helsinki Metropolia students worked on the E-RA and manufactured, installed, and tested a large proportion of its components. They came from a range of different disciplines, united by their passion for the automotive world and their desire to create a vehicle on their own, and were assisted by their faculty advisors and a multidisciplinary group of advisors, including people from industry.

“Our car was streets ahead of the others in the X PRIZE competition in many respects – and reflects our desire to prove that electric cars can offer a real alternative to conventional designs,” says the E-RA’s Project Manager, Sami Ruotsalainen.

Technical specifications of the E-RA

The Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences is Finland’s largest university of applied sciences and trains experts in the fields of culture, business, health care and social services, and technology. Some 16,000 students are enrolled in its 67 degree programmes, 14 of which are taught in English, and 2,150 graduated with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in 2010.

R&D work at Helsinki Metropolia gives students the opportunity to deepen their expertise and develop the skills they will need in their future careers. Project partners include national and international actors in the public, private, and third sectors.

  • Capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 6 seconds
  • Range of 200 kilometres on one charge
  • Energy consumption of 14.5 kWh/100 km, equivalent to a fuel consumption of 1.6 l/100 km
  • Top speed of 200 km/h
  • Direct 4WD with four electric motors, no gearbox
  • Rapid charging capability
  • Weight: 1,720 kg
  • Carbon fibre body
  • See www.raceabout.fi/era for more details and images.
> Sami Ruotsalainen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)